Checking For Understanding

Roy Hodgson left his role with the England national team after the humbling 2-1 defeat to Iceland at this summers’ Euros, a performance that has been heavily criticised and scrutinised since. We all have our opinions on what went wrong, who’s to blame, and how things could have been so different.

However, this week came a huge revelation that will no doubt open up a whole new debate. Following an interview by UEFA coaching magazine The Technician with Roy Hodgson, it has been reported that the England players didn’t know what he wanted from them.

Radio phone-ins, newspaper articles and social media posts will no doubt light up with more opinions on Roy, the players and English football in general, but it does post a serious coaching question…

As coaches, how do we know that our players understand what we are looking for and how do we check their understanding?

At Tècnica we have dissected the quotes from the ex-England boss and, in his defence, a lot of what he said we actually agree with and understand the benefits of his methods! We do however see an underlying issue.

Below we have picked out some of the key points that he made, followed by our own conclusions and ideas:

  • Hodgson explained to the magazine that you shouldn’t overestimate your players’ understanding of what you want

  • England training sessions and matches were filmed to analyse and discuss in small group meetings

  • In these meetings, the manager and his staff went through things and then had the players repeat back what they were being told

  • Hodgson believed that players should take ownership of each situation and wanted the players to consider their actions and decisions to then learn from their errors

Using the four points above we can create a guide to make sure our coaching practice is beneficial to our players:

  • Explain ideas in their simplest form

  • Creating analogies that our players will understand can help

  • By working in smaller groups you can have more focused contact time with your players

  • If you coach on your own, allow your players to analyse and help each other

  • Check for understanding by asking questions

  • Ask questions to individuals, this way the entire group will focus on the session

  • Let your players learn from their mistakes and take ownership of their development

  • Long term learning is more important than short term success

The underlying issue in all of this is the environment!

Roy Hodgson was the England manager, he was expected to get results. In that highly pressured environment, short term success is more important than long term learning as winning matches keeps you in a job. International managers don’t get much time to work with their players, they need instant success, so they have to find the most efficient and effective ways to get their message across.

At grassroots and academy level there isn’t the same pressure to get results, instead you should be motivated to develop your players. Seeing your participants improve as players and as people is success. You have the time to let your players learn from their mistakes and find solutions to problems, therefore creating young people that can think for themselves.

Understanding your operating environment is vital to ensuring your approach is suitable and you, and your sessions, are as engaging as possible. Participants, especially children, need to feel a sense of excitement and enjoyment, so by creating the right learning environment you can be the catalyst for your players’ development.

You will have your opinion on Roy Hodgson and his methods, and we would love to hear your thoughts on the subject, get in touch through the website and on our social media streams!

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